The weird new conspiracy theory that the Internet has been dead for 5 years

Thanks to a recent installation of The Atlantic‘s ongoing series about conspiracy thinking in America, I just learned that the Internet is dead. And that everyone on the Internet — including, presumably, myself — is in fact a highly advanced artificial intelligence, and that all of us AIs think we are successful duping all of the other highly advanced AIs on the internet by producing content that mimics human behavior, all for the sake of some government PsyOp, I guess?

As the article explains:

In January, I stumbled across a new thread there titled “Dead Internet Theory: Most of the Internet is Fake,” shared by a user named IlluminatiPirate. Over the next few months, this would become the ur-text for those interested in the theory. 

[…]

Peppered with casually offensive language, the post suggests that the internet died in 2016 or early 2017, and that now it is “empty and devoid of people,” as well as “entirely sterile.” Much of the “supposedly human-produced content” you see online was actually created using AI, IlluminatiPirate claims, and was propagated by bots, possibly aided by a group of “influencers” on the payroll of various corporations that are in cahoots with the government. The conspiring group’s intention is, of course, to control our thoughts and get us to purchase stuff.

“I think it’s entirely obvious what I’m subtly suggesting here given this setup,” the post continues. “The U.S. government is engaging in an artificial intelligence powered gaslighting of the entire world population.”

On one hand: yes, this is very clearly bullshit (I swear, I’m real). On the other, it’s so absurdly bullshit that it makes me nostalgic for a time when conspiracy theories just seemed like impossibly ridiculous things that a few fringe communities believed in, which couldn’t possibly be real or escape into the real world and actually cause demonstrable harm to living, breathing societies of people. Remember that?

There’s another hand at play here, too — the idea that this massive false-flag internet gaslighting PsyOp was specifically designed to sell shit. Because the heart of that actually isn’t so far off from the truth. But it’s a gaslighting government PsyOp; it’s just capitalism driven to an even greater hunger by snake oil salesmen who promised some great psychological return from Big Data algorithms. You don’t have to look any further for some secret Illuminati or other man behind a curtain pulling levers. That’s all pretty out in the open.

Maybe You Missed It, but the Internet ‘Died’ Five Years Ago [Kaitlyn Tiffany / The Atlantic]

Image: Gwydion M. Williams / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

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Thom Dunn